A lack of construction Pride: CLAC

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clac pride article

Special to Ontario Construction News

The construction industry still has some way to go to foster inclusion for 2S/LGBTQ+ individuals

A report released last fall found that 0.5 percent of skilled trades workers identified as gay men, 0.6 percent as lesbian women and 0.2 percent as bisexual men and women. The study by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, showed a significant underrepresentation of 2S/LGBTQ+ individuals in the skilled trades and concluded the numbers are likely an underestimate because some people might not feel safe disclosing.

Why are those self-identifying as 2S/LGBTQ+ individuals discouraged from entering the construction industry? 

The report found that lack of interest is due to lingering perceptions that the construction industry is unsafe or unwelcoming, that it fosters negative stereotypes about who fits in the trades, and that it is still infused with toxic masculinity. 

In addition, the nature of construction work, with frequent moving about from job to job, can make it difficult for 2S/LGBTQ+ workers to establish a sense of trust and comfort with coworkers. This leaves them feeling like they need to prove themselves and navigate disclosure on an ongoing basis.

The report found that 2S/LGBTQ+ tradespeople experience high levels of stress. The report’s researchers were told about microaggressions and harassment, which results in employees not feeling safe revealing their true selves.

“We saw poor self-reported mental and physical health outcomes,” said Chloe Halpenny, one of the report’s researchers. “We saw lower life satisfaction, statistically significant when you’re talking in stock terms like differences in all of the things that we know are important to people’s work experiences, but also overall well-being.”

Training and education are viewed as keys to fostering a more inclusive culture in the construction industry. With approximately 13 percent of construction workers reaching retirement by 2027, according to BuildForce Canada, promoting the construction trades to 2S/LGBTQ+ youth could help offset the coming decline in employment levels.

“People had a lot of ideas about what could be done differently,” said Halpenny. “There are folks who are starting to think about these things. The upside is that there’s lots of room for improvement, and there are people in the sector who have a lot of really tangible ideas about where that improvement might come from.”

Solutions and recommendations from the report include:

  • Challenge harmful behaviours through education and training.
  • Ensure the presence of strong leaders and managers who are committed to advancing 2S/LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion.
  • Support 2S/LGBTQ-specific interventions and initiatives to build a greater sense of community for 2S/LGBTQ+ tradespeople.
  • Build sustainable, meaningful, and accountable processes for safety and inclusion.
  • Address barriers to entry and build 2S/LGBTQ+ representation.
  • Foster safe, welcoming, and inclusive trades environments.
  • Engage within and across communities: 2S/LGBTQ+ people within the construction sector should be actively engaged in any initiative directed at or affecting them.
  • Continue to build knowledge in this subject area through more research and data collection.

This article was originally published by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).

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